Design Approaches to Support Preservice Teachers in Scientific Modeling

Feb. 01, 2011

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Vol. 22, No. 1, p. 1-21. (February, 2011)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to describe the authors' iterative design work in teacher education around one authentic scientific practice—namely, the practice of scientific modeling.

The authors describe their instructional designs, which they have incorporated into three different teacher education programs, and they present their struggles and successes with the students in these programs, who are tomorrow’s teachers.

How do these teachers learn to engage students in scientific modeling, at the same time as they are learning about scientific modeling themselves?

Participating Sites
The overall research project investigates both student and teacher engagement in scientific modeling practice. From this project, three universities from different states collaboratively designed and enacted instructional strategies that supported modeling-centered experiences in preservice science method courses.

Iterative Designs for Supporting Preservice Teachers around Modeling

The authors identify main phases of work that characterize the overall nature of the instructional designs they developed and enacted. The authors draw on their empirical findings and their impressions as teacher educators to describe the results of each design phase.

Implications and Conclusions

The authors suggest that preservice teachers, including preservice early childhood and elementary teachers, can engage in scientific modeling.
Specifically, they recognize the importance of engaging children with elements of modeling and the metamodeling knowledge associated with the elements.

However, preservice teachers may struggle with effective ways of doing so and the challenge for teacher educators becomes providing appropriate scaffolding for supporting their learning.

The authors have developed design principles for teaching preservice teachers about scientific modeling that have emerged from their design process.

First, the authors have found that it is important to ensure that there is a need for engaging in the full range of elements of modeling practice (constructing, using, evaluating, and revising models), rather than emphasizing just model construction.

Second, these experiences should authentically create a need for using models to make explanations and predictions about phenomena.

Third, these experiences should authentically provide opportunities to gather empirical evidence that can (and must) be used in revising one’s model.

The preservice teachers could construct, use, evaluate, and revise their models of evaporation and condensation; these topics involved processes that took place over time and that entailed a mechanism to explain what was happening; and they were sufficiently sophisticated topics that even adults found need to revise their initial models after collecting empirical data.

Fourth, teacher education experiences also should provide opportunities for preservice teachers to develop all the key elements of teacher knowledge required for engaging students in scientific modeling—namely teachers’ own metamodeling knowledge, their subject matter knowledge, and their PCK for scientific modeling

Fifth, the authors suspect that supporting preservice teachers in considering modeling across multiple content areas is very important. The authors used a variety of content areas and found that different content areas lend themselves to better contextual examples of elements of modeling.

The authors argue that teachers should engage students in evaluating and revising models, to help them develop a better understanding of how science works.
The authors argue that teachers must incorporate discussions of models and modeling to help students develop that improved understanding.

Updated: Jun. 18, 2012